Dang, my grandkids are smart. Really, really smart, and they don’t get it from me.
A few years ago, Dagny (now 12, but then 9 or 10) was sitting in the back of my car because I was giving her a ride to or from someplace or other. As you all know, cars are the place where the most interesting things are learned. Seriously, I could learn more about Court’s life when he was a teenager in a 15 minute ride home from school than I could during an hour at dinner. I think it has something to do with the lack of eye contact. It was easier to tell me that he had detention while staring straight ahead than during dinner when he would need to see the look on my face.
At any rate, Dagny mentioned that in school that day, the teacher had posed this question to the class: What is a Buffalo Soldier?
“Nana, do you know I was the only person in my class who knew what a buffalo soldier is?” she said.
“Really?” I said weakly. “Why, that’s shocking.”
I, of course, had no clue what (or who) a buffalo soldier was. I started humming the Bob Marley tune to myself, hoping it would give me a clue. It didn’t, so I looked it up when I got home.
Three years ago, Bill and I were visiting our Vermont family. As part of the trip, we took an amazing whale watch tour. At the time, our grandson Joseph was a mere 6 years old. At one point, one of the tour guides – a docent of sorts – came by and asked if we had any questions. We initially said no, but then Joseph asked her if the whales we were seeing were baleen whales. Wait, what? Again, I tried to look educated, but this time I couldn’t even fall back on a Bob Marley song. I had no idea that a baleen is a filtering system that some whales have in their mouths, allowing them to efficiently access their food sources. Never fear, because Joseph knew the questions to ask.
I was never one to learn much from a textbook, I’m afraid. I could memorize, and so I could generally do pretty well on a test. If you asked me the question a few months later, however, the answer would evade me. I’m still that way.
Here’s how I best learn history: reading historical novels. I know that what you read in a historical novel – NOVEL being the operative word –must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, everything I remember about the reign of Henry the VIII is from reading the Philippa Gregory novels about his wives. Oh, and from Herman’s Hermits (a reference only understood by Baby Boomers).
As parents and grandparents, we worry about our kids and grandkids watching too much television or staring at some sort of screen. It’s true that too much technology can stifle imagination. Having said that, however, it seems to me that kids can learn a lot from Kids You Tube or certain games or television programs.
This past weekend, Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole had a sleepover at our house. Saturday morning, Mylee – who is 7 years old and just got out of second grade – said two things that positively astounded me. The first was something I overheard her saying as she and Cole were playing a game that involved a battle of some kind. Towards the end of the battle, I heard Mylee tell Cole, “And now, for the pièce de résistance….” and she proceeded to do something that won the battle. Seriously.
The second thing nearly made this grammarian nana’s heart burst with pride.
She was telling me a story; I truly can’t remember what the story was about, as Mylee tells lots and lots of stories during a day. But at a point in the story, she did air quotes as she said something. Suddenly, she stopped. This 7-year-old said, “I don’t know why I did air quotes. What I’m telling you is literally true.”
I teared up. My little precious granddaughter knows when air quotes are inappropriate. You see, there are few things in life that annoy me more than both the incorrect use of the word literal and the incorrect use of air quotes. She understood both.
When I was 7, I was just starting to learn to See Spot run. Run Spot run.
See? My grandkids are smart.